AKA Deadly Lust
366 Weird Movies may earn commissions from purchases made through product links.
DIRECTED BY: Michaël Vermaercke
FEATURING: Charlotte De Wulf, Felix Meyer, Karlien Van Cutsem, Aaron Roggeman, Bram Verrecas
PLOT: Fleur lies in a hospital bed recalling her splintered memories of a drunken revelry as she attempts to get a grip on her trauma.
COMMENTS: The clunky phrase “frenetic incoherence” is the best one that springs to mind to describe this feature debut from Michaël Vermaercke. Whether this frenetic incoherence results from accident or by design is a question only briefly worth pondering, however, because on the whole, with some caveats, this thing works. Memento Mori is jumpy, unreliably told, and a bit macabre—not unlike the literal translation of the title, “remember that you must die.” Vermaercke obviously has a particular story he wants to tell with this film, and whether you like that story (and style) or not, I’m inclined to believe he succeeded in so doing.
Skittering between past and present (and again within skitterings), we piece together a horrible evening alongside Fleur, the tragic protagonist. Jules, her boyfriend of over a year, is desperate to have sex with her, and it seems to be agreed that they would try (again) at a big blow out held for Jules’ birthday. Among the attending crew of underage drinkers is Jules’ sketchy buddy Alex, who also lusts after Fleur. Alex’s girlfriend Valerie gamefuly ignores her fellow’s roaming eye—up to a point. Laying down the tracks that night, and possibly dosing the partiers, is “DJ Wouten,” a macho toughie with a deep-seated fear. As the music blasts and the kids slam back impressive quantities of liquor, a Death-like figure increasingly looms in the corner of Fleur’s eye.
On a smaller scale, Vermaerke pursues an atmosphere similar to Climax, which was made around the same time. Among the odd cuts and close-ups is the devouring of a rather plain looking cake, and while other elements are in the mix (I mention, once again, the staggering quantities of booze), it is only after this confection-cramming that the story slips from shaky to downright difficult to follow. Alongside Noé-style noodlings, I detected traces of in the form of the shrouded figure delivering comeuppance to various revelers. Eventually this looming form (seen only by Fleur) removes its masque, and…
Eh, I dunno. Memento Mori is heavy without feeling impactful, featuring characters who feel realistic without invoking much sympathy. Even Fleur, suffering from something psychological before the whole party nonsense, is too withdrawn to latch on to. I lament her fate, and commend her survival, but it may have been better to place a crack on her surface to let the audience in. The film’s grisliness leaves a mental mark, but the surrounding chaos is too tame for you to get lost in the intended nightmare. If Vermaerke tilts further into psychosis-on-celluloid, however, we’ll have a promising light to follow into the darkness.
WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:
“Memento Mori ist ein kurzer, schneller, farbintensiver Trip in die jugendliche Psyche seiner Protagonisten. Dabei verschmelzen Realität und Illusion, Traum und Wirklichkeit. Zwar nicht frei von Schwächen, aber spannend inszeniert.” -Stephan Lydike, Years of Terror (contemporaneous)
(Translation: “Memento Mori is a short, fast, colorful trip into the youthful psyche of its protagonists. Reality and illusion, dream and reality merge. Not free of weaknesses, but staged in an exciting way.”)